KOTA BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The two orang asli girls who survived in the Malaysian jungle for more than 40 days without food are now able to sit up in bed and do some colouring.
Norieen Yaakob, 10, and Miksudiar Aluj, 11, were oblivious to visitors who have been visiting both them and their parents.
A psychiatrist was seen attending to the girls at around 1pm at Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II on Sunday (Oct 11).
Norieen's mother Midah Angah, 40, said her daughter wants to eat a lot but the doctor would not allow it yet as she could become ill.
"I have explained that to her but she can't accept it," Ms Midah said.
She said the doctor had given her daughter a special nutritional drink in the morning.
"We have also given her a little bit of Milo," she said.
Ms Midah said that the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) had given them mats and pillows to sleep on on the floor in a hospital room specially made available for them.
"We are used to sleeping on the floor," she said, adding that the family had asked for clothes and that the department said that it would send them.
"Jakoa also wanted to find a rented place for us to stay but we prefer it in the hospital to be near our children," she said.
Ms Midah said that Norieen and Miksudiar were still traumatised as they had seen their friends die one by one.
"They even slept with a dead body near them with all the smell and maggots," she said.
She also said that three of the orang asli children were swept away by the river.
Norieen told her mother that her brother, Haikal, eight, and two others drowned in the fast flowing Sungai Perias.
"She said she saw Haikal drinking from the river and saw him being swept away but she could not do anything about it," Ms Midah said on Saturday.
Ms Midah said Norieen also told her that Sasa Sobrie, eight, was sleeping on a boulder near Sungai Perias at night but was gone the next morning.
The same thing happened to Linda Rosli, eight, who slept at the river bank but also disappeared after that, added Ms Midah.
Asked why the children ran away from school, she said Norieen did not explain it to her.
Miksudiar's mother Rozita Bahir, 41, said her daughter had not been eating well.
"She vomits each time she eats bread," she said.
Norieen's uncle Harry Boy, 20, a first-year Business Management student of UiTM Machang, nearly fainted after seeing the girl being wheeled into a Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II General Hospital ward.
He said he broke down after listening to his niece's experience, especially when she related having seen friends die or disappear.
"It was too painful to hear that the first to die was my eight-year-old nephew Haikal," he said.
Kelantan state health director Ahmad Razin said the girls who survived were estimated to have lost about 10kg each but were in stable condition.
"There are two issues that we need to pay attention to, one is their serious lack of nutrition and the other, their psychological state," he told reporters at the hospital yesterday after visits by ministers and government agency heads.
Dr Ahmad said the girls were severely emaciated and the hospital had to nourish them gradually.
"They also appear to be depressed and do not want to talk. When I tried to examine them, they did not want to cooperate," he said, adding that they seemed to still be traumatised by their ordeal.
The seven children were initially believed to have fled into the forest on Aug 23 to avoid punishment for swimming in a nearby river without permission.
But on Sept 15, the parents had explained at a press conference at the Suhakam (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) office in Kuala Lumpur that the seven children had gone missing after they could not find their older siblings in the boarding school.
Three of the group of 13 older siblings were penalised for swimming in a nearby river, prompting the other 10 to hide in a nearby farm. They later returned to the school.
But while the older siblings were in hiding, the seven thought they had gone home and decided to walk home for the weekend, without informing the school authorities.
Dr Ahmad said Norieen and Miksudiar were transferred from Hospital Gua Musang to the Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II because it has more specialists such as paediatricians, dieticians, pharmacists and psychiatrists.
Paediatrician Nik Nasiruddin Nik Leh said the girls needed to be monitored properly.
Asked how long it would take for the children to recover, he said it could take between three and six months.
Norieen and Miksudiar were found alive after 46 days. The remains of the three who drowned, together with that of another child, Juvina David, were recovered.
One more child, Haikal, is still missing.
253 search and rescue personal have been deployed into the dense jungle to look for him.
Meanwhile, Jakoa has denied claims that the orang asli families and victims involved in the search-and-rescue (SAR) operations in Pos Tohoi were mistreated by department staff.
A Malay media report on Saturday had accused the department of not providing adequate care to the victims and their families.
"The report is untrue, baseless and creates a negative impression of the Department and Government as a whole," said Jakoa director-general Hasnan Hassan in a statement Sunday.
According to Datuk Hasnan, the department is committed and has given full attention to the SAR mission for the seven orang asli students of SK Tohoi and have also provided basic necessities to the families children throughout the 49 days of the operation.
And Kelantan police chief Mazlan Lazim said that so far no criminal element has been found in the case of the missing children .
"They walked in a group, all seven of them, without anyone else guiding them," he told reporters at the Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II on Saturday.
"When asked why they did not walk home to Pos Tohoi, the survivors said they were worried that they might get lost," he said.